Theresa May dismisses skepticism over leadership bid

Theresa May has dismissed scepticism among some conservative MPs over her claim that she wants to lead the Tories at the next General Election.

Speaking during an official visit to Japan, the Prime Minister said there “are real issues that we need to be dealing with and I’m there to do it”.

Asked about scepticism over her leadership ambitions back home, she said: “For most members of the public, they would say they want the Government to get on with the job and that’s exactly what I and the Government are doing.”

Earlier, the Prime Minister had said she was “in this for the long term” – indicating she will lead the Tories into the 2022 election.

Mrs May said: “I’m in this for the long term because there’s a long-term challenge for the UK.

“We need to get the Brexit deal right, deliver the right deal for the people of the UK.

Theresa May and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe
Image: The PM greets her Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on her Far East trip

“But we also need to ensure that after we have left the EU, global Britain is out there trading around the world, standing tall in the world and that we deal with some of the remaining injustices at home.”

Asked if she wanted to fight the next election for the Conservatives, Mrs May said: “Yes.”

“I’m in this for the long term,” she added.

Last week, reports emerged that Mrs May is going to quit her premiership on 30 August 2019.

Number 10 dismissed the claims as “peak silly season”.

The idea that she now wants to spend another five years as party boss came as a surprise to some of her MPs – and some were quick to express scepticism.

Lord Heseltine, a party grandee and former deputy prime minister, told Sky News the idea was “not realistic”.

Conservative MP John Redwood says Theresa May has his full support as leader

Video: John Redwood: PM has my ‘full support’

Just two months ago, in an interview with The Sun, Mrs May refused to commit to fighting the next general election as head of the Conservatives.

“I’m not a quitter,” the Prime Minister added, when later asked to clarify her remarks as she finished the first day of a three-day trade mission in Japan.

The Prime Minister has used her trip to push the message she wants her premiership to stand for more than Brexit.

In a huddle with journalists on the plane to Japan, Mrs May spoke about how she wants to pursue a domestic agenda with renewed vigour.

Theresa May and William Hague
Image: Ex-Tory leader William Hague urged MPs to back the PM

The Conservative Party conference in October is expected to concentrate on issues such as housing and education – taking Mrs May back to the speech she delivered on the steps of Number 10 after she was first elected as Prime Minister last summer.

Mrs May’s revelation came as former Tory leader William Hague added his backing for Mrs May, despite her loss of the Tories’ House of Commons majority at June’s General Election.

The result sparked speculation of a leadership challenge.

But Lord Hague urged Conservative MPs to “get behind” the Prime Minister as she tackles Brexit.

He said: “In fact the ones who manoeuvre probably will not become the leader.

“They should get behind Theresa May and help her to do a good job in these exceptionally difficult circumstances of having to deliver Brexit and keep the economy going at the same time without a majority in the House of Commons.”

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